Mayoral, Citywide Candidates Stand by Deceptive Minutes, despite Court Order, Exhaustion of Appeals
(APN) ATLANTA — The official minutes of the February 11, 2020 Community Development/Human Services Committee of the Atlanta City Council continue to erroneously misrepresent that a vote occurred regarding whether to go into Executive Session, even though a Fulton County Superior Court judge declared in a May 20, 2021 order that the minutes are in error in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe ruled on May 20, 2021 that the minutes erroneously state that a vote occurred; and that this is a violation of the rights of APN’s News Editor–the present writer–under the Georgia Open Meetings Act to access official minutes that accurately reflect what transpired.
All City Council Members were notified of the court’s ruling in an email from APN’s News Editor on May 20, 2021. The present writer requested that the minutes be amended within thirty days, both in his personal capacity and on behalf of APN.
To date, the amendment has not taken place.
Mayoral candidate Andre Dickens, the current Post 3-at-large Councilman, who voted to approve the deceptive minutes last year, has failed to introduce a resolution to amend the minutes, consistent with the Court order, indicating that he is content with illegal minutes and to continue to violate the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
Ditto with regard to Mayoral candidate Antonio Brown, the current District 3 Councilman.
Council President candidate Natalyn Archibong, current District 5 Councilwoman, also seems to be perfectly all right with deceiving the public and violating the law.
While Council President Felicia A. Moore does not have the ability as a Council President to introduce a resolution to correct the minutes, she, too, as a current Mayoral candidate, has apparently taken no action regarding the erroneous, unlawful minutes adopted under her watch.
Following the court’s May 20, 2021 ruling, the City of Atlanta continued in its expenditure of taxpayer dollars to defend its actions.
As of June 2021, the City has spent over 259,000 dollars on outside attorneys defending its actions and omissions under the Georgia Open Meetings Act and Georgia Open Records Act in litigation with APN’s News Editor.
The majority of this money has gone to the Bondurant, Elmore, & Mixson firm. To date, the total estimated spending is likely around three hundred thousand dollars.
The City held an Executive Session to discuss the court’s May 20, 2021 ruling at the June 21, 2021 Full Council Meeting.
On June 11, 2021 the Bondurant law firm filed a 104 page Motion to Set Aside the Court’s May 20, 2021, with exhibits, on behalf of the City. The court denied the motion on June 15, 2021.
On July 08, 2021, the Bondurant law firm filed a Motion to Reconsider the court’s denial of the motion to set aside. The court denied that motion on July 26, 2021.
Because the City did not file a Notice of Appeal within thirty days of the May 20, 2021 ruling, they also have no ability to appeal to the Court of Appeals of Georgia.
The Council held a Full Council Meeting on August 02, 2021, but they failed to take action to amend the minutes, even having exhausted their appeals.
At the Feb. 11, 2020 Committee Meeting, Chairman Matt Westmoreland (Post 2-at-large) made a motion to go into Executive Session, or a closed meeting. Councilman Amir Farokhi (District 2) seconded the motion.
As previously reported by APN, the Executive Session itself was apparently illegal, as is the subject of a pending lawsuit for civil penalties under the Georgia Open Meetings Act against Mr. Westmoreland, Cardinale v. Westmoreland and Ide, 2020-CV-832334.
The separate lawsuit also seeks a civil penalty against Chairwoman Jennifer Ide (District 6) of the Finance/Executive Committee for apparently falsely attesting as to the justification of the closure of the Cmte Meeting to hold a Feb. 12, 2020 Executive Session.
The subject of discussion of the Executive Sessions themselves was an illegal ordinance, City of Atlanta Ordinance 20-O-1155, which was preempted by state law but passed by the City Council anyway, as previously also reported by APN.
But even the very vote to go into Executive Session was a charade; as Mr. Westmoreland called the vote and its results without a vote having even occurred.
“All those in favor say aye – the ayes have it we’ll be in the Terminus Conference Room,” Mr. Westmoreland said, all in less than one second, without any member of the Committee shown on video opening their mouth to vote, or being heard voting.
He called for no nays nor abstainers.
Meanwhile, Natalyn Archibong (District 5), a member of the committee, is shown on the video talking on her cell phone during the vote and apparently not participating in the committee deliberations.
Video clip of vote:
Originally, the minutes of the Feb. 11, 2020 CD/HS Committee Meeting did not even list the mover or the seconder of the motion to go into Executive Session. And, as clearly the committee analyst was unable to record the yeas or nays (because they did not occur), the minutes did not list the yeas, nays, abstainers, or absences.
After APN’s News Editor filed a prior suit, the City amended the minutes on June 09, 2020, to add the mover and seconder, but also to erroneously state that the committee took a unanimous consent vote.
The Council cannot retroactively turn a botched vote that was called and then terminated before actual votes could occur, into a unanimous consent vote, when Mr. Westmoreland did not call for unanimous consent. Unlike so many Chers, the City of Atlanta cannot turn back time.
It is not immediately clear why Councilmembers or the Law Department apparently believe that taxpayers should pay for the City’s legal defense of their perceived right to defraud the public.
ADDITIONAL MINUTES IN VIOLATION OF MEETINGS ACT
On June 04, 2021, APN notified the City Council of additional meeting minutes not in compliance with the Georgia Open Meetings Act because they omit the details of certain votes – particularly, votes to approve minutes from previous meetings; and votes to approve agendas.
APN made a separate records request to make sure all Councilmembers received the June 04, 2021 email notification.
To date, however, the City, in their apparent arrogance and flouting of disregard for the law, the public, or transparency, has failed to take action to amend those minutes as well:
Jan. 14, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
Jan. 28, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
Feb. 11, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes, in addition to other issue of the vote to go into Executive Session, which was already addressed in court’s May 20, 2021 order.)
Feb. 25, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda).
March 10, 2020 (vote to adopt the agenda, and the vote to adopt the minutes.)
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)